What Is an Environmentally-Friendly Car Wash?

Debra Durkee

Washing the car is a necessary evil; the practice keeps cars and helps them last longer, but the process comes with a negative impact on the environment, whether done at home or at a commercial car wash. An environmentally-friendly car wash is a commercial car wash or product that helps to minimize the environmental impact of washing a car. Some car washes have been built with features like filtration systems that allow for recycling water and cleaning products that break down once released into the environment.

Environmentally-friendly car washes typically have filtration systems installed to recycle the water used during a car wash.
Environmentally-friendly car washes typically have filtration systems installed to recycle the water used during a car wash.

Most commercial car washes use countless gallons of water each day in order to clean the cars that go through them. In many cases, the water is flushed into the area's sewer systems, where it then travels to a water treatment plant. An environmentally-friendly car wash typically has filtration systems installed that recycle as much of the water as can be salvaged by the system, reusing it for the next car wash instead of disposing of it. An efficient system can recycle as much as 90 percent of the used water.

The soaps, polishes, and other chemicals used in washing cars can also create a problem for the environment. They get washed off the car and into the sewer system, or drain into the ground surrounding the car wash. Biodegradable chemicals are typically one of the most important features of an environmentally-friendly car wash, as these soaps and cleaners are designed not to harm the environment; they break down and disappear instead of remaining in the soils and water.

Some other touches can help make the carbon footprint of an environmentally-friendly car wash even smaller. Towels may be made from materials that are sustainable or easily renewable. The inside of the car wash can also be made environmentally friendly, using recycled materials in areas where people wait for cars to be washed.

Want to automatically save time and money month? Take a 2-minute quiz to find out how you can start saving up to $257/month.

For the individual who prefers to wash his or her car at home, there are some environmentally-friendly car wash products available that have been designed to minimize water use and pollution. Typically, gallons of water are used in wetting the car, applying soap, and then rinsing. Some new products are simply sprayed onto a dry car, then wiped off with a rag. This not only saves on water, but also prevents soaps and polishes from being absorbed into the ground when water runs into the lawn or into sewer systems.

Discussion Comments


I don't know much about the products used in the waterless car wash process, but I imagine they have to be rather strong to clean a car without there being any water put on the car. In the long run, we may learn that using the water and a plain soapy cleaner is more environmentally friendly than using the chemicals that don't require water. Sometimes we create big problems when we try to find solutions to small problems.


I never had thought about what happens to the water after it is used at a car wash to clean the cars. After reading this article, recycling the water at the car wash seems like a much better idea than letting the water run through the sewer system and then be recycled at the water treatment facility. This is common sense, but not something the average person considers when he is trying to get his car clean.


One summer I worked in a resort community where there were no car washes and the use of water was closely monitored. So, as you can imagine, keeping a car clean in this type of environment was not easy to do. Actually, this was a great environment for a smart business person.

One of my friends at the resort started a car cleaning business. He would pick people's cars up and take them and wash them. And he used a no-water washing system, so all he needed was a bit of room where he could move around the car and get it cleaned with the car wash products he kept in his trunk. He also had to do the work in a shaded area because of the cleaning products he was using, but that wasn't a problem.

He made a small fortune just washing cars, and they were all cleaned using an environmentally friendly method that used no water whatsoever.

Post your comments
Forgot password?